Lauren Martin
Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University, UK

To contact Lauren in her role as Secretary, please use our contact form.

Research interests

  • Border and migration policing
  • Carceral geographies
  • Feminist geography
  • Political geography
  • Security

Commercialising Border Enforcement

This project examines the role of private and non-state actors in immigration and border enforcement in the US and EU. Outsourcing and subcontracting detention operations, data analysis, technology development and implementation, trainings, and oversight are commonplace in the US, and the EU’s FRONTEX actively facilitates meetings between the private sector and member state border agencies. This project analyzes the legal frameworks through which non-state actors are authorized to perform particular border and immigration enforcement practices in order to rethink how and the what extent borders can be said “belong” to the state.

Familial Intimacies

My research on US noncitizen family detention policy and practice raised important questions about how geographers conceptualize familial relationships. While feminist geographers, in particular, have well-developed conceptual tools for thinking through gender, home, social reproduction, domesticity, and care, “the family” is a powerful discursive entity in immigration politics and beyond. With Chris Harker at Durham University (UK), I organized a special issue on family for Environment and Planning A that brought together research family separation, labor migration and citizenship, the geopolitics of intimacy, and the politics of precarity. Alongside “Privatizing Border Enforcement,” this research project examines the ways in which immigration policies and procedures individualize, isolate, and depoliticize cross-border mobility. Together, these two projects investigate “privatization” from two different political-economic angles: the security company and the migrant.

Topological Spaces

(with Prof. Anna Secor, University of Kentucky) This project traces the recent uptick in geographers’ and social theorists’ use of topology and topological metaphors. Space, borders, power, and social relations have been argued to be topological, or becoming topological. Theoretical inspiration for this attraction to topology come from both structural (e.g. Lacan) and poststructural (e.g. Deleuze and Guattari) thinkers, and thus the concept has been used to understand the structuring of space and networks, flows, and leakages. The article provides a critical overview of this emerging body of literature and an original reading of how we might think with and through topological space. It is part of my long-standing interest in theories of space, materiality, and power.

Challenging Immigration Detention

I continue to follow immigration detention politics in the US and have been particularly interested in how detention visitation programs negotiate relationships with immigration and detention center officials. While visitors seek to provide companionship to detainees and to undermine the geographies of isolation imposed by detention, access requires relationship-building and communication between groups that are usually antagonistic. This research has been carried out in collaboration with migrant advocates and activists in the United States, and I hope to extend these relationship to European visitation programs, as well.